Monday, January 24, 2011

Is It Legal To Eat Out This Often?

We are on a one family mission to improve the economy in the Birmingham area, by putting money back into it via restaurants. I thought just for the sake of total embarrassment I would put the places we went in a one week period on "paper".

Monday night ate at home
Tuesday night book club at Beloved Sis' house
Wednesday ate at home
Thursday lunch Chuy's

I met 2 very dear long time friends at Chuy's for lunch. It would have been fine to eat anywhere, but the fact that we were in a place with really nice food only added to the pleasure. Chuy's is at the Summit in the last phase of development. It is tucked away in the corner of the U shaped shopping center, and will hide from you unless you look carefully. Parking can be a challenge so either go early or prepare to walk a little. I am a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom fan there. It is 2 chicken enchiladas covered with the secret Boom Boom sauce, rice and refried beans. I like a little heat and this dish has a nice bite but it doesn't linger. It is more than I like to eat for lunch though, so I go ahead and have them bring a go box so I can put half of it away before I even start. I love the fact that they make their tortilla's fresh. We set in the section where the tortilla lady was making them as fast as she could. Though we were there for a while and the lunch rush was past, she continued working as hard as she could. I am sure she was trying to get a little heads up on the early dinner crowd. I love everything about the place, from the decor to the music they play. Instead of traditional Mariachi music they let you listen to songs by singers like Bob Dylan or Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. It is a great place to go on a cold day. Can't beat a nice warm restaurant filled with the wonderful Mexican spice smells and great company.

Thursday supper Mr. Chen's

We have been going to Mr. Chen's since the week they opened. It is in a strip shopping center in the heart of old Hoover, next door to Green Valley Drug Store. For about the first 4 times we were there we were the only non Asian faces in the restaurant. We used to have the same waitress each time we went in and she would monitor our order. Occasionally we would ask for something and she would say " No, You no like!" She finally learned we were a little adventurous and would actually take our order without flinching. ( Of course when Son3 ordered the Pigs Feet she had all the workers come and watch him eat them) Thursday the Hub and I were not really hungry so we split the Kung Pao Chicken and an order of the green pea leaves. It's the only place we go that has them. They are this very delicious sweet leaf that has been shredded and sauteed. It is incredibly bright green and the taste is as "bright" as it looks. It is on our order each time we go now. They also have a darn good sauteed cabbage, but we are pea leaf loyalists now.

The decor is kind of Spartan and there is little atmosphere. A large TV on the back wall plays soundlessly with either Chinese Network News or a Chinese fashion show. Every time we have been it has been one of the other. It's not a good place for a romantic dinner, but if you want good authentic Chinese food this is the place.

Friday supper Mikey's

Friday night we went to Mikey's ( another strip store restaurant) on Valleydale Road in the Southlake Shopping Center. It is a restaurant that really can't decide what it is. I guess since it is in a strip setting it need to cater to a casual crowd, but some of their entrees are a little ambitious. The place has a full bar and a limited wine list. The interior space is odd and There are some tables that just seem to be randomly in the middle of everything. They keep the lights low and the tables have white cloths and candlelight. The gigantic strip mall windows have curtains that look like they are made from illusion ( I imagine it is probably a polyester alternative so they can be washed and rehung with no ironing)

When we sat down, Mike our waiter, brought homemade rolls and olive oil with pesto sauce as a dipping oil. It was ok but they were a little heavy on the pine nuts and it made me think I was swishing the bread in leftover Christmas tree juice. I was not in the mood for anything heavy or rich so I ordered the Crab Cake Sandwich. I didn't want the sandwich but they don't have a plain crab cakes on the menu. The sandwich came with sweet potato chips and I ordered a side of slaw. Hub had a grilled grouper with a Hollandaise sauce and sauteed asparagus spears. To me it is odd that a kitchen has such a schizophrenic menu. I wound up taking the sandwich apart and having just the crab cake and the slaw, which is what I wanted to begin with. The crab cake was fine but not stellar. The slaw was wonderful but I confess I am a slaw freak.

The Hub's food was much better than mine. The grouper was incredibly fresh and cooked perfectly. The Hollandaise was, well it was Hollandaise but it was completely creamy with no sign of breaking. They had used enough lemon so the taste was buttery yet bright. Next time I will order from the better side of the menu.

Saturday I ate at home

Sunday lunch I Cantina

We went to the new I Cantina in Patton Creek. Again it has a strip mall feel but I am so prejudiced to the original Cantina next door to Pepper Place. Given a little time and about 100 candles dripping all over the holders it might have the same "feel" as the other, but for now I will have to just be glad it has the same taste. Also the Patton Creek Cantina has table service now, so no more standing in line or getting up to refill your drink. We had the sweet potato chipotle soup. My reaction at the first bite was 'ick', but I tried a second spoonful and the heat kicked in and the flavors developed. It must have been good cause we did not leave one bit in the bowls. We also had fish tacos and they were spot on as usual.. Son3 had the fish burger and the corn. Whatever you do try the corn!

Monday lunch Zaxby's

I had been to a funeral and had eaten no breakfast or lunch. What can you say? It was a drive in grab 2 chicken fingers and diet coke kind of meal. The chicken fingers are good and extremely portable. Nuff said.

Monday supper Mandarin House
Yet another strip mall restaurant adventure in Hoover. This time you are in Cheesy China with red floors and walls, wood carvings and a light up picture of what I assume is supposed to be some serene Chinese landscape. The tables are staggered so you don't feel like you are sitting on top of the table next to you, plus the brunt of their business is take out, so there are rarely more than 5 or 6 tables occupied. Hub and I both had scratchy throats and broken hearts. In addition to the funeral of a wonderful lady today, one of Hub's young co-workers died unexpectedly. We decided we needed a bowl of our favorite "feel better" soup. We split their Hot and Sour Soup and split an order of egg rolls. From the first bite I felt better. This is our favorite comfort meal and we seem to have it often (usually take out) during the winter. Son3 had his usual Fried Rice with Chicken. It is a mountain of food even if you are a 17 year old male.

Please tell me some places you go often. We are in a strip mall rut and need some change ( Actually we just need to eat at home more!)

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